Gorskie's High Expectations
By Cameron Clow
Tennis courts are generally used to play a game involving a neon yellow, felt ball being hit back and forth with tightly strung rackets. But not always.
Stanford's Hunter Gorskie, co-captain of the men's soccer team, remembers tennis courts in a different light. Growing up, Gorskie played a variation of the more common racket sport only his version involved a soccer ball and his foot, which played the part of the racket.
Gorskie developed skills playing "soccer tennis" for hours on end with his older brother Jason, who graduated last year after playing four years of soccer at the University of Pennsylvania. The games would often start as a best of three series and end hours later after the brothers decided that the winner of the series had one win that would count towards their total in another best of three series, creating a series within a series.
With his brother Jason's support, Gorskie became one of the top soccer recruits in the country, choosing Stanford and becoming part of a highly-touted recruiting class. His incoming group helped lift expectations on The Farm.
"Coming in with this class, I knew it would be unacceptable to not make the tournament all four years," said Gorskie, the starting right back for the Cardinal this fall.
As a freshman in 2009, Gorskie helped deliver Stanford's first NCAA berth in seven years, but the team struggled last season and missed the tournament. It only increased his determination to continue to raise the bar in Palo Alto. Now a junior, Gorskie has been named co-captain and is being counted on to lead the team.
With a heightened sense of urgency, the New Jersey native used the summer to sharpen his skills and ensure that he was at the top of his game. Gorskie sought out a developmental summer league and played with the Chicago Fire, one of the more successful Major League Soccer franchises.
Gorskie played in the Premier Development League (PDL), the amateur league of the United Soccer Leagues (USL), which is essentially one-step away from MLS. Gorskie started every game for the Chicago Fire PDL at right back and gained a wealth of experience that he has carried back to Stanford.
"I definitely learned to adapt to different players," said Gorksie, "It was never the same 18 guys taking the field."
More valuable than the game experience was the life experience. Gorskie stepped off a plane into a cab, which took him to his summer home - an apartment complex he would share with a number of his teammates, seven of whom were international players.
"The most interesting thing was getting to hear everybody's story and having respect for what everyone's been through to play soccer," said Gorskie.
Some of the stories included a player from England who signed a $200,000 deal to play professional club soccer in Europe. His plan was derailed by an injury, which landed him in Chicago for the summer. Another player from France had played in the French National program.
Spending time with players who had tasted professional soccer on an international level, a goal that Gorskie one day hopes to reach, helped him develop a sense of professionalism and respect for the game that he now carries.
Despite the variety of reasons for spending the summer with the Chicago Fire PDL, Gorskie and his teammates did have one thing in common: a burning passion for the game of soccer.
"Soccer is my passion, all I can do is think about what time practice is or when my next workout is," said Gorskie.
His passion for the game was instilled and supported by his brother, who was two years his superior. The brothers played on the same high school soccer team, and although Jason was older, he did not bully or taunt, but rather supported and shared the spotlight with Hunter, who thrived with the familiar tutelage.
"My brother's support was a big reason I became what I am as a soccer player," said Hunter, who keeps his older brother in the back of his mind while training and preparing.
With his ability to adapt, professionalism and passion for the game, Gorskie hopes to get Stanford back to the NCAA Tournament and the top of the Pac-12 standings. He will likely end up playing in the MLS in the near future and maybe even a professional career overseas is in the cards. One thing is for certain he will be playing soccer.
"I'll go wherever soccer takes me. As long as I'm playing soccer, I'm good."